Festival daytime highlight Shapeshifter is back, a sculpture exhibition in Lower Hutt showcasing 60 works from exclusively New Zealand-based artists.
This is the sixth Shapeshifter, a Rotary fundraising initiative that attracted more than 10,000 visitors in its 2012 season.
Lucy Bucknall's sculpture Big Man, a two-metre-tall bronze polar bear wearing a hoodie, is described by curator and Dowse Art Museum director Courtney Johnston as the exhibition's "anchorstone".
It is North Shore-based artist Bucknall's first entry in Shapeshifter, a piece she says represents global warming issues.
Originally from Britain, Bucknall moved to New Zealand in 1998 after becoming interested in bronze sculpting when she was an apprentice for Sean Crampton, an artist and World War II hero who lost his leg in battle.
"He was a pioneer in welding bronze, but his doctor told him he had to stop because his back kept giving up so he became an artist. I was his apprentice for about seven years and that's how I learnt the welding skills," Bucknall says.
The inspiration for Big Man came from the possible extinction of polar bears and her interest in animal welfare organisations.
Bucknall says incorporating the hoodie in the sculpture was partly to get people to see Big Man as not just another wildlife image but a living thing with a story.
Most of her work develops a political message.
"I once did a group of meerkats like little special troopers on patrol with helmets and rocket launchers. I've done a lot of paintings using the burqa as a symbol, and once a backpack with a bomb in it, which was part of a series of work on the London Underground bombing."
For all that Big Man might represent a heavy topic, she says a lot of people feel compelled to hug the sculpture.
"He looks quite lonely and a bit sad. If I was to do a giant endangered spider, it probably wouldn't have the same effect."
Big Man won the McConnell Family Supreme Award at Auckland Botanic Gardens in 2012 and Bucknall hopes it will sell during Shapeshifter.
"I really hope he sells to a public space. That's my greatest hope, because I'd feel very happy if everyone could see him, not tucked away in somebody's lounge only seen by a few people.
"Although, a big figure like that in your lounge would probably help with the burglary rate."
Shapeshifter runs until March 16 at Lower Hutt's Civic and Riddiford Gardens. Tickets $7, proceeds go to charity.
- The Dominion Post
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